HANOVER, Germany—After two decades of working in the tire-manufacturing sector, Markus Wachter is now guiding HF's introduction of a new tire building machine technology into the market.
With 23 years' experience in the tire industry, Markus Wachter joined the Hamburg-based HF Group in 2016, as executive vice president extrusion and tire building machine technology.
The appointment meant a move from tire making to making machinery for Wachter, who had spent more than 20 years at Dunlop and Goodyear, including in senior engineering and manufacturing roles up to plant manager throughout 10 years at its plants in Germany and France.
Throughout the last two years, he steadily has been applying his experience in areas such as engineering, factory planning and in the production of UHP tires at his new employer.
"What I am bringing to HF, is the know-how of the whole tire manufacturing process and the challenges of operation," Wachter said during the recent Tire Technology Expo in Hanover.
"At the end of the day, the machine has to produce the tires on market demands with highest quality, and it has to be very 'friendly' for operation and maintenance, as well as cost efficient," he said. "So, it is important to know the challenges: from the milling room to the final finishing."
Wachter said joining HF has provided him with new insights into how tire companies around the world are adapting to market needs. This includes seeing the tire market "not just from one customer or market perspective," particularly as newer players have been taking market share from the top five tire makers over recent years.
"Today, it is about taking a truly global approach," he said. "You can see this, for example, with all the investments the Asian players in China and India are putting into the global market."
To meet such requirements, Wachter was quick to point to HF's current introduction of a new TBM—the product of a development project, which started about the time of his arrival from Goodyear.
According to the HF executive, the new machine, labeled One, represents an evolutionary step in terms of advancing the production-run capabilities of tire manufacturing plants.
Wachter said the impact of mandatory tire labeling in the EU since 2012 and its likely adoption in other countries—especially the U.S., Japan and China—is driving TBM development.
"It was a shock for many in the industry to learn that their tires had to have a quality that is really repeatable," he said. "The quality bar has been raised, as with harmonized testing. You cannot change, as you might want to, the parameters every day. You need highly stabilized processes with less variation."
Another factor, he said, was increasing diversification, with standard tires, SUV tires as well as low-aspect- and high-aspect-ratio tires, all part of a growing product mix. This will be expanded by electric vehicles that require tires with smaller patterns and higher diameters.
The increasing need for production flexibility also is increasing. Wachter said he previously has worked at tire plants with lot sizes of less than 300 units and the SKUs running just once or twice a year.
"Manufacturing is getting more and more complex," he said. "The tire world is faced by different tire constructions, including those that need specific tire building processes for high crown and flat carcass designs, TOS or SOT, as well as quick changeovers with a perfect quality output."
Materials costs and scrap reduction are more issues seemingly addressed by the TBM, which allows the production of tires with innovative carcass designs—in part through a more effective application of ply layers and sidewall application during tire construction.
Conventional machines, Wachter added, are limited by shaft-size, typically 140-150 millimeters, and can only hold small spindles inside. This limits the force that can be applied through the spindle during tire construction.
"With our patented technology, we have moved that operation out of the shaft itself," Wachter said. "We are using three spindles, installed at the transfer ring, and are activating the drum from outside. That gives much more power. We have three strong spindles, servo-controlled and also a much longer hub, giving much more flexibility."
The drum also is designed to run to shaping bead-to-bead distances below 200 millimeters, compared to conventional machines, which Wachter said, can mostly only work down to 220 millimeters.
"Our new drum can go down to 180 millimeters," he said. "So if you have a very small tire, for example for e-mobility, requiring reduced rolling resistance, you can build this with our One. We have broken down this limit dramatically."
Wachter predicts that offering tire makers a single machine like the One machine would allow tire designers more freedom to deliver all "new evolutions" of tires.
He said the One concept would help HF increase its current 15-20 percent share of the global TBM market.
"Today, tire companies have to show innovation and stabilize their processes," Wachter said. "We want to grow with this new technology, which will help solve the operational challenges involved in manufacturing tires."